Dealing with Test Stress
SATS, PSATS, ACTS, CASHEE exams—yikes. For any college bound student, the mere thought of these tests brings a shudder. What’s worse, worrying about your performance while taking the test can affect your focus, judgment and time management. The result can be a lower score that does not reflect your capabilities.
1. Be responsible for your own learning. Go to class; pay attention; do the reading and hand in assignments on time. No teacher, tutor, parent or generous friend letting you copy homework can help if you refuse to be responsible for your own learning. Cramming might help you pass the class. It is useless when it comes to the SAT.
2. Speak up if you don’t understand a concept or there’s a word you’re not familiar with. If you’re not comfortable asking the teacher during class, ask the teacher after class, or find someone else who can explain it. You can also look it up online.
3. Be informed. Know what to expect by familiarizing yourself with the specifics of each test. Several companies offer test prep manuals. These manuals feature detailed descriptions of the formatting, concepts covered and explain how these tests measure your abilities.
4. Test yourself. Along with breaking down the various segments into categories, time frames and strategies, many of these resources offer sample tests. With the help of a tutor, parent or classmate, take practice tests. By doing this a number of times, using sample tests on each segment, you begin to identify your strengths and weaknesses. What did you miss and why?
5. Be objective. As you identify your strengths and weakness, revisit test-taking strategies, detailed in these manuals and also available on a number of online sites. When is it good to guess? When is it not? What keywords (such as “discuss,” “analyze,” “illustrate,” “most”) contained within questions require extra caution? Carefully review the questions you miss on practice tests and examine the reasoning behind the correct answers (you’ll find these in most manuals following the test and answer key).
6. Learn to pace yourself. Time management is a major part of successful test taking. If you hurry, you risk making needless errors; if you take too much time on a question, you risk not finishing.
7. Identify what distracts you and what supports your focus. Are you sensitive to noise? Do you need to stop every few minutes to refresh? Explore relaxation techniques and see what works for you.
8. Take care of your health. Get adequate sleep, exercise and eat a healthy diet.
9. Arrive at the test site a few minutes early. If you find that the anxiety of other students is affecting you, focus on relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or tensing and relaxing muscles.
10. Anxiety is normal but if you are prepared, know what to expect and maintain your normal routine, chances are that you can improve your performance.
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